A Philosopher's Blog

Wilson’s Disapproval Resolution

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on September 15, 2009
{{w|Joe Wilson (U.S. politician)}}, U.S. Congr...
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The House officially passed a resolution of disapproval against Joe Wilson. The resolution does not impose any real punishment and more or less just says that folks did not like what he did. Wilson‘s view is that he apologized to Obama and hence he does not need to apologize anymore.

My own view on the matter is somewhat divided. On the one hand, he did apologize to the person he wronged. That, one might suspect, should suffice. After all, an apology is only owed to one who is wronged, not those who merely witness the wrong. As such, he had no obligation to apologize to the House and had good reason to think that he was the target of a political action (of course, what else do politicians do…).

On the other hand, his actions can be seen as an offense against the members of the House. To use an analogy, suppose I am teaching my class in a professional manner and a student yells “you lie” at me, thus disrupting the class. In this case, the student not only owes me an apology, he also owes his fellow students an apology as well. After all, he disrupted their class. If this analogy holds, then Wilson should have apologized to the House members as well.

While I do think that people should speak out against what they regard as lies and evil, I also believe that people should behave with restraint that is proper to the situation. In that setting professional behavior is to be expected and Wilson failed in that regard. He did apologize, which was the right thing to do. While the House members have the right to pass a resolution, by doing so they are perhaps doing more harm than good. After all, they surely have more important matters to deal with.

Interestingly, this situation is something of a political goldmine for Wilson. Some folks see him as bravely standing up to Obama and this has yielded significant donations to his campaign fund. Of course, it has also inspired folks on the left-his main opponent has also seen his coffers flowing with cash. As to whether  or not the Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot by continuing to press the issue is something that remains to be seen.

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